ISQAM Europe: Wider Perspectives

Tony Emmerson

Senior Deputy Head, The English College in Prague

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“Events, dear boy, events” Harold Macmillan’s summary of what can go wrong for a politician can equally apply to a school leader. We can produce our strategic plans, laminate our vision, inform and communicate, and talk about the future as much as we want, but events, dear boy, have a habit of happening.

The pandemic was a lesson. Whatever we were planning to do in 2019 and 2020, it probably wasn’t what we actually did. Covid did wonders for our ICT strategies, and many a chemistry club learnt how to make hand sanitiser, but the key to doing well during the restrictions was finding answers to questions that had not previously arisen. And the wider a set of experiences a leader has to draw upon, the more they can take elements from here, there and everywhere, and synthesise a new way of doing things.

A second lesson from that rather strange time, was that to function well in a crisis an institution needs leadership capacity that it distributed throughout the wider organisation, not just concentrated in a small number of SLT offices. When our middle leaders develop the ability to lead in a creative, original manner, they bring core strength to a school. Any SLT that doesn’t seek to empower their middle leaders is making a burden for its own back.

A turbulent brew of political and technological change means events are on the way. It is common (although not universal) for schools to invest in training their middle leaders, with HMC’s Independent Schools’ Qualification in Academic Management (ISQAM) being a popular and respected option. But can a training course that exists within a single system and convention really spark the out-of-the-box innovation that allows a school to not only survive events, but capitalise on them? After nearly two decades working in international education it was obvious to me that an opportunity was being missed, and so I have been working with HMC to develop ISQAM Europe: Wider Perspectives.

ISQAM Europe: Wider Perspectives is aimed at both UK and European schools. The vision is simple: combine the rigour and prestige of the established HMC qualification with the diversity and variety of ideas that international education brings. The content will still be relevant for, but not solely specific to, middle leadership in the UK, but the discussions will include different curricula, different assessment frameworks, and different cultural norms and family expectations. This will bring two benefits: when there is more than one road to follow, a leader will think about the why more than the how, and their horizons will be widened and their imaginations fired by what they discover. No single school or system has all the answers, but knowing about a wider world allows a leader to draw upon a wider range of elements when deciding how to navigate a path through those inevitably eventful events.

The European ISQAM will also be a wider overall experience than its UK counterpart. Attendees will have to arrive the day before, so the English College in Prague will organise a networking dinner for that evening, so everyone can get to know each other and the conversations can start. Following the ISQAM day itself, which will be delivered (as always) by the Institute of Education, experienced Senior Leaders and legal experts, there will be a Wider Perspectives Day where attendees will see the theory being put into practice in different schools. This should finish in time for everyone to catch the evening flight home, energised by what they have learnt. Both the networking dinner and the Wider Perspectives Day will be organised by the English College on a not-for-profit basis.

Finances are as real as events (with financial events being doubly real!), but this should not be a barrier to attending ISQAM Europe: Wider Perspectives. A quick internet search will show that, with planning, flying to Prague is often the same price, or cheaper, than taking a train across the UK. Hotel costs are likely to be cheaper too, as well as any other incidentals. Overseas training is common in the international world, but from a UK perspective can too often be seen as a junket or jolly. This is why wider perspectives are needed! It can make economic sense, as well as facilitating a unique leadership development opportunity.

Moving abroad was the best thing I ever did, and if I return to the UK the lessons I learnt will live on in my heart and in my work. This course is not for everyone, but for someone aspiring to be a middle leader with spark and style, who wants to change the world, wants to follow their moral compass rather than convention, and who wants to help their school adapt to the future challenges, this is an experience not to be missed. If you want to be ready for events, dear boy, you need Wider Perspectives!


10 May 2024